A triathlon training journal is one of the most important triathlon training tools you could have!
Not a Garmin,
Not a Heart rate monitor
Not a turbo trainer
But a triathlon training plan and a triathlon training journal.
As the great management consultant Peter Drucker said “what gets measured, gets managed”.
Put simply, progress is motivating.
A training plan is essential as you must know in advance what your goals are and set your plans accordingly. This takes so much stress away as you do not have to decide each day what you need to do, you get up and do what is on your plan.
Most triathletes who are fairly serious do have a training plan and there are many plans out there you can adapt for your purposes so this article will not cover this ground again.
But what many fail to do is keep a training journal.
Why do I need a triathlon training journal?
This creates the magic!
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The scary truth about what happens to your body when you stop training- for 2 weeks...4 weeks...8 weeks...
A training journal will help you do more of what is working and eliminate activities that waste time.
Funnily enough our memories do sometimes play tricks on us.
Sometimes when we have had a hard week, we can feel like we have put in all this time and have not improved at all.
But when we look back at our journal, we can see just how far we have come.
We can also see times where we felt bad, times where we felt elated, and carried on. This helps build character.
Without recording your sessions and results in your triathlon training journal, it is difficult to remember what is working and what is not working.
Your triathlon training journal will help you identify any problems in your training that might be leading to injury or illness. You can create your own or buy one to use as a template. Here is one of the best training journal templates out there. It will help you track every training detail you need to organise and improve your training and your performance. It will help you know what is working and what you leave out so you maximize your time effectiveness.
So track many elements carefully and with discipline-after each session.
Do NOT leave it until the end of the week as you wont remember everything.
It does not need to take long- just 5 minutes at the end of each session and you will have an accurate record.
You will need a triathlon training journal if you hire a coach
At some point, you may feel like hiring an coach to help you go to the next level or to change your training a bit to get better results.
If you have nothing to show them, you will be effectively starting from scratch and be basing it on some fuzzy memories.
Instead if you can show them your last 3 years of data, your type of training, volume, intensities, durations and results, you can progress forward quickly. The coach may easily be able to see some errors in your training plan, which are easily addressed, and suddenly you may find yourself on the podium ☺
What should I track?
The basics of course are time, distance, speed. Then you start adding more.
Record your heart rate- resting heart rate, average and peak heart rates.
Record average and peak power.
Record how you felt in the morning when you woke up.
Record how many hours you slept and the quality of sleep.
Record how you felt before, during the sessions and after the sessions.
Record what you eat and timings of food. Some people just track what fuel they used during their sessions. This is OK- but it is better if you record everything- what you ate for breakfast, during sessions, recovery drinks, lunch, dinner, what snacks do you eat, alcohol? Everything you eat and drink contributes to your athletic performance.
Record your weight on a weekly basis and you use scales, which measure body fat%.
Some triathletes think you can train through a bad diet.
Yes you may be able to keep the weight off due to volume of training.
This does NOT mean you are healthy and it certainly does not mean you are putting in your best performances.
Record race performances and results.
As you get a few in the bag, you will be able to look back and review what type of workouts led to your best results.
Test and measure
Your triathlon training journal also helps you plan your race.
If you know you can maintain 190W for 1 hour on the bike without going over lactate threshold- this will help form your race plan for race day.
Record accurately how each race went. Get the data and add to it- how you felt.
Did you take off too fast in the swim?
Did you stick to your plan on the bike or did you take off after the lead group fueled with adrenalin and blow up on the run?
Should you have held back a bit then unleashed with 10km to go?
Without the data- you are guessing, and guessing leads to errors!
With good data from your triathlon training journal-tried and tested, you can draw great confidence. Confidence leads to excellent results and less stress.
You don’t suffer the “Should I? Shouldn’t I” saga in your head which is very draining, Instead- you KNOW.
You will know what to eat on race day
You will know if caffeine enhances or destroys your performance
You will know what pace to set out at
You will know when to push hard
Also you will start to predict and make better forecasts. Often, triathletes are surprised with a sudden decline in performance or a sudden injury. However once they look at their triathlon training journal, the warning signs were there for weeks or months beforehand. They either did not know what to look for or were in denial.
A triathlon training journal helps you fine tune intensity and volume of training, to know when to push harder and when to back off a little.
Where should I record my triathlon training journal?
Wherever is most convenient.
Most triathletes these days do use a computer-based journal.
This enables you to upload your results to an online coach if you have one.
It also allows you to create your own charts and easily compare year on year.
Many heart rate monitors and tracking devices will wirelessly upload all your data to your computer.
This is quick, accurate and convenient.
Of course a paper journal also works. If you do not have all these gadgets, or an online coach or you simply prefer writing, then do this.
ANY journal is better than no journal. Start today, do not wait until next season.
Put at the top of the journal your overall training goal and simply checking in with this each day will keep reminding you why you are doing this.
By keeping a triathlon training journal, you will improving far quicker than by relying on memory, on “how you feel’ and on guesswork.
You are developing hard data, which provides motivation, direction and the ability to fine tune your training and maximize your race performance.
Do not leave your triathlon training plan to chance
For me, it took me many years to be consistent with it.
In the beginning of course-I trained on “how I felt”. Maybe this is fine for your first season. Of course I never “felt” like grabbing a pen and paper after a hard session.
But once you know you enjoy it,start to invest in good bikes, great gear, a few gadgets and lots of time- it is really important to start tracking things.
Of course it is the last thing you feel like doing after you get off an 80 mile bike ride, however, it is 5 minutes well spent- capturing as many things as you can.
You will start to notice patterns.
One of the things that started to shift for me was instead of thinking about keeping a triathlon training journal as something “I should do”, I started thinking of it as something “I wanted to do”.
I found once I kept it up for a few months consistently, I could really see where I was over training, what areas contributed to my best performances, what areas I was neglecting. The hard data actually saved me time and in this sport- every minute counts.
Also I hired a coach for one season a few years ago- and wow- having the data of what I had already been doing and what results I had achieved was so important and saved so much time instead of me trying to remember what I was doing , what was working and what results had been.
He could quickly create a structured triathlon training program based on fact, not guesswork.
He could easily see what was lacking in my program and easily identify what to tweak/change and improve to give me the quickest maximum improvement .So start or refine your triathlon training journal today!
If you are at the beginning of your triathlon journey, make sure you start a triathlon training journal. Even if you do not have a structured beginner triathlon training plan yet. Do not wait for 2 years.
It should be like brushing your teeth- never do a session without capturing the data. In the long run, it will make you a better athlete and save you time, prevent injury and give you superior performances.
If you are intermediate or experienced and do not really use one, start to take it seriously. Some triathletes keep one, but never take the time to review it or look at trends and patterns. Try to review your triathlon training journal at least once a month and use it to inform your training program next quarter.
Always aim to enhance the data you are capturing. Make sure you track your thoughts, feelings and energy levels along with the hard data like power, mileage and heart rate.
Let me know in the comments if you use one and what data you find the most helpful.
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